by Raquel Stecher
The Wedding Guest
dir. Michael Winterbottom
starring Dev Patel, Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh
It’s seems like a disservice to you, the reader, for me to summarize the plot of this movie. The greatest joy I experienced while watching this film at the Toronto International Film Festival was going into it knowing nothing. With no trailer and only a vague description, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I found myself enveloped in this world, not knowing what was going on or who these characters were or where this story was taking me. It was magical.
Jay (Dev Patel) is a mysterious traveler arriving in Pakistan for a wedding. It turns out he’s not your average wedding guest. He’s here to kidnap the bride Samira (Radhika Apte). He’s been hired by the bride’s secret Indian beau Deepesh (Jim Sarbh) to save her from an arranged marriage. When Jay kidnaps Samira, his carefully executed plan is thrown off by a nosy bodyguard who Jay has to kill to escape. When Jay tries to return Samira to Deepesh, things are not as they seem. As news of the bodyguard’s death and bride’s kidnapping spreads, Jay and Samira find themselves on the run.
Winterbottom’s The Wedding Guest is shrouded in mystery. It draws the audience in, peeling back the layers of the story all the while holding us at arm’s length. I got lost in this world, in the setting, in the lives of Jay and Samira. And these characters are two of the most perplexing and enigmatic ones you’ll ever encounter on screen. Every time I learned something new about them, a morsel of information, it made me hungry for more. We don’t fully understand them but we’re willing participants in their game.
Patel and Apte deliver A+ performances. Sarbh doesn’t have a big role but he stands out as the shifty beau with a secret agenda. The film was shot in India and Pakistan with a small crew which gave the film a profound sense of realism (you feel like you’re right there with them) and also an intimacy. The movie is filled with really amazing cinematography and some great aerial shots courtesy of Giles Nuttgens.
The Wedding Guest is a superbly crafted mystery with terrific performances. Winterbottom is such a versatile director. Go see this one!
I attended the world premiere of The Wedding Guest at the Elgin Theatre as part of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
Below is a Q&A with Winterbottom, Nuttgens, Patel and Apte. However it does have a major spoiler so I don’t recommend watching it until you’ve seen the film!